The Genie That Controls The Genes

 

 From Virolution...

'The blue-headed wrassed inhabits the coral reefs of the Caribbean.  The male, dominant and pugnacious, sports a dashingly Technicolor coat of blue, white and green, separated by thick black stripes, meanwhile the physically smaller females that make up his harem affect a more reticent composure, and cloak themselves in subdued yellow, with silver underbelly. But if the male dies, or otherwise absconds from the scene, the largest of the females changes sex, her ovaries shrink and new testes sprout, all within a day or two, and she flaunts her new coat of dashing blue, white and green, and affects a macho behaviour to suit, so that, gender reassignment complete, she becomes, in flesh and in spirit, the new dominant patriarch.' 

Since the genes in the wrasse cannot change, how are such dramatic changes brought about?  The answer lies with "epigenetics" - in Virolution, this is explained in the chapter, "The Genie That Controls the Genes" 

How does this differ from classical genetics? 

A couple of examples may help to demonstrate this...

Epigenetics is the force that measures the differences, rather than the similarities, between identical twins.  It is also the force that tells plants that spring has come.

Epigenetics offers modern medicine the means of controlling not only our vertebrate genes but also the actions of our vast viral inheritance. 

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Wrasse image from Wikepedia